Big Problem: California’s Behavioral Health Worker Shortage

Graphic representation of Mental Health Disorder. Image via Shutterstock

CAPITOL WEEKLY  PODCAST: Earlier this month, the County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California (CBHDA) released a study on the number of healthcare workers available to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment in California. The news is not good.

“More than 90% of counties reported difficulty in recruiting Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Marriage and Family Counselors, and psychiatrists. Most counties also had difficulty recruiting substance use disorder counselors.” Another concern is that the workforce of behavioral health professionals does not match the cultural or linguistic diversity of their client communities.

And, with the ‘Silver Tsunami’ coming, the future looks even worse. Many current behavioral health professionals are nearing retirement age: Thirty-one percent of psychiatrists and 27 percent of clinical and counseling psychologists are 65 or older, and  California is not graduating nearly enough behavioral health professionals to replace them. What next?

We’re joined today by one of the report’s authors, Dr. Janet Coffman of Healthforce Center at UCSF, and Michelle Doty Cabrera, Executive Director of CBHDA. They describe the challenges facing the state, and what is needed to grow and retain a behavioral health workforce that reflects California’s diverse populations.

Plus we have a whopper of a Worst Week in California Politics – stay tuned!


Building the Future Behavioral Health Workforce: Needs Assessment (report for the California County Behavioral Health Directors Association)

Paraprofessionals in California’s Behavioral Health Workforce (report for Kaiser Permanente Northern California Fund for Health Education at the East Bay Community Foundation)

Episode Notes:

1:30 A look at the numbers

3:42 Re: Substance abuse counselors- the numbers are going the wrong way

4:23 The Silver Tsunami in Behavioral Health workers

5:49 The changing labor market

8:15 the Impact of CARE Court?

10:16 What does the state need to do NOW?

12:50 John Fetterman

13:12 The diversity staffing challenge

15:04 Treatment in carceral settings

17:01 The budget deficit

18:18 Worst workforce shortages are in the Central Valley

19:14 Why are programs turning away qualified applicants?

23:55 Housing promo

24:33 What IS working?

28:27 Links to studies

29:34 WWCA: Five former mayors endorsed her recall and she STILL didn’t have the Worst Week

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